The best way to go into Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is to think of it as the first film in a brand new franchise; a franchise in which mermaids love men zombies won’t eat you and a Fountain of Youth exists but all laws of logic reasoning and competent storytelling don’t. Although screenwriters Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio were smart enough to sever the narrative ties to the first two sequels in their franchise’s fourth outing the latest swashbuckling adventure in the series shares most of the same faults its predecessors faced.
Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) steps in for Gore Verbinski in On Stranger Tides but you’ll be hard-pressed to find his contributions to the already-flashy film that finds our hero Capt. Jack Sparrow (the inimitable Johnny Depp) on the hunt for the fore mentioned fountain. Of course he’s not the only one looking for eternal life: also in tow are nameless stereotypical Spaniards the English crown headed by a reformed Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and Blackbeard a ruthless pirate who looks and sounds a lot like Ian McShane. Their paths cross on numerous occasions as the story scrambles across the map culminating in a splashy battle in a magical meadow where Ponce de Leon’s greatest discovery lies.
Less a cohesive story and more a collection of individual set pieces linked together by nonsensical dialogue and supernatural occurrences the film isn’t all that hard to follow if you don’t strain yourself doing so. The sequence of events collide so conveniently for the characters you can’t help but call the screenplay anything but the result of complacency while the film itself sails so swiftly from point to point it’s actually a waste of time to dwell on plot holes and motives. Disrupting its momentum (which is one of the few things the film has going for it) is an unwatchable romance between Sam Claflin’s missionary Philip and Syrena (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) one of a handful of murderous mermaids who do battle with Blackbeard’s crew. Their bland courtship will have you begging for Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley to return to the high seas and that’s saying something.
The all-female fish people are one of a few additions to the Pirates world but their effect on the film is negligible outside of being the impetus for the coolest action sequence in the picture and perhaps the most unnerving of the series. The others include Penelope Cruz as Blackbeard’s busty daughter Angelica and Stephen Graham as shipmate Scrum. The former feels out of place among the cartoony happenings but provides much needed sass while the latter fills in for Kevin McNally’s Gibbs for much of the film and is a pleasure to watch for some hammy comedic moments.
As always however this is Depp’s show and he continues to put a smile on my face with his charisma and theatrical presence. Even though he’s operating on autopilot throughout you can’t help but marvel at his energy and enthusiastic output as he literally fuels the fun in the film. The same can be said of Rush who’s given a meatier and more significant arc this time around. He trades quips with Depp as if they were a golden-age comedy duo and they remain the most appealing attraction in the franchise. Though he brings an undeniable sense of danger to the picture I was sadly underwhelmed by McShane’s Blackbeard a character with such a domineering reputation and imposing look he should’ve been stealing scenes left and right. Instead I felt he phoned his performance in though that could’ve been the result of Marshall’s indirection.
No better than the genre-bending original but a slight improvement over Dead Man’s Chest and At Worlds End On Stranger Tides suffers centrally from lack of a commanding captain. Marshall’s role is relegated to merely on-set facilitator or perhaps liaison between legions of talented craftspeople that make the movie look so good. Whatever vision he had for this venture if he had a unique take at all is chewed up and spit out by the engines of the Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster factory rendering the film as mechanical as the ride from which it is based.
Kathryn Bigelow made Oscars history when she became the first female to land the top director honour, beating ex-husband James Cameron in the process.
Calling the huge win "the moment of a lifetime," Bigelow dedicated the award to "the women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world."
The gritty film also claimed the night's sound awards, film editing and original screenplay prizes - as it collected six of the nine accolades it was nominated for.
Avatar, the world's biggest grossing movie ever, was a triple winner and Up, Crazy Heart and Precious won double.
All the pre-show favourites won the big acting prizes with Jeff Bridges claiming Best Actor, Sandra Bullock Best Actress, Mo'Nique Best Supporting Actress and Christoph Waltz Best Supporting Actor.
Bigelow led what became a great night for firsts - Bullock became the first star to land a Golden Raspberry dishonour the same year as an Oscar - she picked up the Worst Actress Razzie for All About Steve on Saturday (06Mar10); Bridges won his first Oscar for Crazy Heart after five attempts, and 33 of 39 Academy Award winners took home their first Oscars, with The Hurt Locker trio of Bigelow, writer Mark Boal and sound editor Paul N.J. Ottosson picking up their first and second accolades at the 82nd annual prizegiving.
The full list of winners at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood is:
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Best Animated Feature Film: Up
Best Original Song: The Weary Kind by Ryan Bingham & T-Bone Burnett (Crazy Heart)
Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker)
Best Animated Short: Logorama
Best Documentary Short: Music by Prudence
Best Live Action Short: The New Tenants
Best Make-Up: Barney Burman, Mindy Hall & Joel Harlow (Star Trek)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire)
Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique (Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire)
Best Art Direction: Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg & Kim Sinclair (Avatar)
Best Costume Design: Sandy Powell (The Young Victoria)
Best Sound Editing: Paul N.J. Ottosson (The Hurt Locker)
Best Sound Mixing: Paul N.J. Ottosson & Ray Beckett (The Hurt Locker)
Best Cinematography: Mauro Fiore (Avatar)
Best Original Score: Michael Giacchino (Up)
Best Visual Effects: Andrew R. Jones, Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum & Richard Baneham (Avatar)
Best Documentary Feature: The Cove
Best Film Editing: Bob Murawski & Chris Innis (The Hurt Locker)
Best Foreign Language Film: El secreto de sus ojos (Argentina)
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
We all know Adolf Hitler did not die as a result of an organized assassination plot against him but this fact does not hinder the enjoyment of watching how that attempt by members of his own Nazi command plays out. Reminiscent of great ‘60s WWII conspiracy thrillers such as 36 Hours and Night of the Generals this film centers on the actions of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) a loyal German officer who nevertheless is horrified by what he sees Hitler doing to his country and is determined to find a way to stop him. In 1942 he tries to persuade senior commanders to overthrow Hitler and later in 1943 while recovering from combat injuries he joins the German Resistance a secretive anti-Hitler group comprised of several men in the highest ranks on the inside. Using Hitler’s own contingency plan labeled Operation Valkyrie to prop up the government should he die this group puts their assassination and take over plan in motion. As the eye patch-wearing SS colonel Tom Cruise is excellent. He comfortably manages to get to the heart of Stauffenberg and portray a man who clearly loves his country and feels it’s a patriotic duty to stop the madness. Wisely Cruise (who produced through his United Artists studio) surrounds himself with actors of the first stripe. Among those supporting the mission are: Kenneth Branagh in a relatively brief turn as an German officer; Bill Nighy as one of von Stauffenberg’s closest allies in the venture; and Eddie Izzard as a communications specialist charged with cutting Hitler’s contact to the rest of Germany. There’s also superb work from Terence Stamp as another high-ranking conspirator and the always great Tom Wilkinson as career officer Fredrick Fromm who seems to be playing all sides despite appearing to be a stern supporter of the Fuhrer. And as Stauffenberg’s loyal wife Carice van Houten (Black Book) looks lovely and hits just the right notes as her husband’s sounding board. Although he has guided big popcorn pictures such as Superman Returns and X-Mens director Bryan Singer has also given us intense thrillers like the Oscar winning Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil. So the command he shows in turning out this nifty thriller should come as no surprise. Clearly Singer knows how to grab hold of an audience and keep them on the edge of their seats -- no easy trick here since the outcome is never in doubt. He keeps this going like a speeding train ratcheting up the suspense at every turn and focusing his camera directly into the eyes and sweat of these courageous conspirators. Valkyrie is a pulse-pounding heart-racing excitement from start to finish.